Photo: Bettina Strauss (Lifetime)

This season of UnREAL is certainly better than last season of UnREAL, but it falters where last season faltered. The show is best focusing on the suitor and the contestants, and Quinn and Rachel, who pass the Bechdel test every episode. Instead, the show reaches too far, like its complicated and muddled attempt to try to take a stand against racism last season. In episodes like this one, that tries to take on male feminism, it’s too much.

Rachel, rebelling from Quinn, gets Chet to interview the guys about their feelings about feminism. Owen, our apparent good guy, goes off on “feminism as an excuse for some really selfish behavior,” blaming his ex-wife, who started talking about how she was a feminist and then didn’t want to be a mom anymore. Which is not what actual feminism is about, at all. Also, if Owen is so worried about his kid, why does he leave her for six weeks to go on a dumb reality show?

What’s worse, then feminism is called out as a fancy word for “selfish bitch” according to Jeremy, the idiot double murderer. I’m at a loss as to what this is supposed to signify. That these guys aren’t evolved? That some people consider feminism a dirty word? These are strong negative statements, so what is the actual point? Maybe it’s pointing out the war between the sexes, as Serena rails against “aggressive patriarchal shit.” At least her damsel in distress stint is over.

Also tired: Rachel and Quinn’s push-me/pull-you. They were at odds throughout most of season two, so do we have to get back there again so quickly? Rachel has an unhealthy dependence on Quinn’s toxicity (as she points out, Quinn is the only person in her life), but in year three, it’s exhausting to see another go-around. Rachel tries to get her shit together. Quinn needs Rachel unstable, because that’s when she’s the most valuable to her. And Quinn can play her like a fucking fiddle, just like Rachel plays everyone else, so it’s really easy for Quinn to call on that dark side when she needs to.

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Got to give it to Shiri Appleby though: That scene with Serena, where she’s obviously having an internal debate about whether or not to tell her about August sleeping with Quinn, was like a Lifetime channel master acting class. And once Rachel falls off the honesty wagon, it’s pretty easy for her to keep going, easily playing Owen, Jasper, and August off of each other. It’s fun to watch, even as much as it devastates Rachel in the end.

But honestly: What’s in it for August on his Serena date if he’s really into Quinn? And I still don’t buy that Serena, a brilliant mogul, appears to believe that she can find “true love” (which she mentions to Madison, jut like a true princess) on a television show. Of the few male contestants that have been fleshed out, only Owen seems to really be in it for the long haul, and he unfortunately has unresolved resentment toward his ex-wife. Maybe Jasper if he can get over his douchey Wall Street betting on women self.

Along with Serena, our two female leads aren’t really rising to the top of the feminist ranks either. Quinn is physically punished for her August affair with a painful urinary tract infection. Rachel gives up her total honesty credo only a few weeks in, so has almost entirely reverted to her old self (remember, last week she almost slid off the celibacy wagon). Another season, another Rachel breakdown. But at least now she may be getting to the bottom of her darkness, judging from the online pictures she was looking at the end of the episode. Any guesses on who he might be? An ex worse than Jeremy?

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UnREAL is frustrating because we like these characters and want them to succeed, but they have to do such terrible things to get there. Rachel has to lie and convince Chet he has a great idea. Jay has to suck up to Alexei, who looks like he’s ready to fall off the wagon any second. Quinn can’t even have a fun hookup on set without getting a UTI and blowing off the guy for good. But worst of all is Rachel, trying to protect the show, firing John the bartender, falsely accusing him of awful things, and causing him to lose his health insurance for his family. This show clearly makes people do terrible things, so why are any of them there? (Looking at you especially, Jeremy.) When Madison is your voice of reason, you know you’re in serious trouble.

Stray observations

  • At least Quinn mentioned the two dead people.
  • Why does the cowboy still hang around? Who is he?
  • “Quinn, this princess in a castle crap is dumb even for us.”
  • Why cast Cameron Bancroft and only have him say only like two lines? Does no one remember his turn on 90210 as Donna’s boyfriend?
  • Next week: We find out who Rachel was looking up.

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